The soybean checkoff has joined forces with the World Food Prize (WFP), an organization devoted to addressing world hunger by meeting the food needs of a growing population.
Each year, the program inducts a new member into its Hall of Laureates, currently being developed in Des Moines, Iowa. The 2009 WFP Laureate is Gebisa Ejeta, an Ethiopian scientist working at Purdue University, whose sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and weeds have dramatically increased production and availability.
The WFP has been presented on an annual basis since 1986 in honor of Norman Borlaug, whose development of improved wheat varieties in the 1940s and 1950s has been credited with saving millions of lives around the world. It’s been said that Borlaug has saved more lives than anyone in history.
The soybean checkoff has goals similar to those of the WFP regarding the alleviation of world hunger, and soy will play a vital role.
USB will play a key role in establishing an educational wing in the Hall of Laureates with specific focus on a biotechnology module that will stress the value of biotechnology in increasing production of U.S. soybeans. The soybean checkoff has committed to develop and maintain a biotechnology kiosk in the educational wing. USB is evaluating a number of ways to increase overall soybean production, including forming a new biotechnology initiative. Borlaug and the WFP are very pro-biotechnology, so they are a natural fit with the USB program
There are already numerous biotechnology improvements to soybeans in the pipeline that will improve quality, quantity and availability of soy protein and oil through pest resistance, drought tolerance, yield increases, disease resistance, digestibility, human health benefits and other compositional enhancements. The soybean checkoff invests funds to accomplish substantial progress in all these areas.
“Soy is a great source of protein for livestock, poultry, aquaculture and humans,” says Chuck Myers, United Soybean Board (USB) chairman and a soybean farmer from Lyons, Neb. “In order to meet the increasing demand for protein, soybean farmers must significantly increase soybean yields on an ongoing basis. Soy will be integral to meeting the global demand for protein and oil.”
The current global population is about 6 billion people, but is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2030. Because of the rapidly increasing population, demand for protein will double in the next 40 years.
“The quality and quantity of soybeans needed to meet this incredible population growth will be extremely difficult to achieve without improvements made possible through biotechnology,” says Myers. “If biotechnology is restrained or discarded, many developing countries in the world that need and want our soybeans could be facing increased occurrences of starvation and famine.”
USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.